Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

Which is better, fame or fortune? (01/15/07)



Featured writer: Charlene Bunas



Contributors this month:
Arlene Mandell
Betty Winslow
Charlene Bunas
Charles Markee
Christine Falcone
Dan Coshnear
Dmitri Rusov~Morningstar
Gregory Gerard
J. Randal Matheny
James Scheller
Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Richard Comfort
Susan Bono
Todd Eastman


A Look at Fame and Fortune

by Charlene Bunas


Do I want fame? Fortune? How ‘bout both? Like salt and pepper and bread and butter, fame and fortune are an assumed pair. I wonder if one half of these partnerships could dance alone. Is it possible to have fame without fortune, fortune without fame? Which would be my choice?

Fame is the temptor - a silver platter with sumptuous pastries, always tempting the hungry, never satisfying the hunger. Fame has calories, cholesterol and a control that blinds those in its spotlight. For Paris Hilton, rich wasn't enough. For Britney Spears, stardom wasn't bright enough. Poor Donald Trump must threaten lawsuits against those who would hint of his shortcomings. Fame is hot. In the end, it's a burn out.

Fortune is the torch - a flame raised to a future of equalities, educations, and encouragement. It offers opportunities and optimisms, scholarships and schools. Patron saint of American philanthropy, Andrew Carnegie, gave away 90% of his fortune during his lifetime. Carnegie and John Rockefeller were giants of the golden age of philanthropy. Today's giants of giveaway are Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. Oprah Winfrey opened a girls' academy in Africa. Cost? $40 million. Their fortunes are gems that will shine long after these benefactors are gone.

I am not famous. With no fame, I am "one of the masses," "part of the crowd." I exist without seeking externals for personal validation. I can go to Safeway in old sweats and rubber flip-flops and no one cares. I can appear in public without make-up and no one notices. I can eat a big box of pop-corn at the movie theater and no one speculates about my weight. I am as I choose.

On the other hand, I do have a fortune; I am fortunate. I have health, a solid marriage, two grown children who, I'm happy to report, have become "adults." They, in turn, have children of their own and these priceless treasures contribute greatly to my joyful prosperity. I have a modest IRA and a large protfolio of friends. My cup runneth over and so I must share! It's who I am.

Fame and fortune often dance together, but when the music ends, fortune keeps the rhythm alive. Fortune is gold. Fame is smoke and mirrors.

With hubby Gary, Charlene Bunas has lived in her home for over thirty years. Her 1999 red VW bug now brags over 100,000 miles.


Arlene Mandell



On Christmas Day the Press Democrat published a brief essay on my childhood relationship with my parakeet, Ricky Ricardo Kostick. One neighbor emailed; another called. No doubt others who read the piece and know me will mention it someday. This is the current level of fame I've achieved. Somewhere out there are 300+ published poems, essays and short stories which may have given moments of pleasure. I could gather them, self-publish, give readings on rainy nights to half a dozen damp souls. But I think what may be charming in a hundred words or less might become tedious in the Collected Works of Arlene L. Mandell. And so I've chosen this very modest level of fame.


Arlene Mandell writes for the joy of it. She once received $50 when two of her poems tied for first place

Betty Winslow



Fame is fleeting and filled with annoying encounters with people who want to be close to you only because you're famous, people who think they know you because they've seen your face somewhere and read stuff about you that may or may not be true. I'd rather have a fortune, so that I could take care of some pesky problems in my own life as well as help others with theirs. However, the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. So, I think it would be better to be comfortablely well-off and well- known to a small select circle. With that in mind, you'll have to excuse me - I need to get back to work. Neither fame nor fortune comes to those who laze about mulling over philosophical questions!

Betty Winslow, trying to earn her own way and make friends in Bowling Green, Ohio


A Look at Fame and Fortune

  by Charlene Bunas


Do I want fame? Fortune? How ‘bout both? Like salt and pepper and bread and butter, fame and fortune are an assumed pair. I wonder if one half of these partnerships could dance alone. Is it possible to have fame without fortune, fortune without fame? Which would be my choice?

Fame is the temptor - a silver platter with sumptuous pastries, always tempting the hungry, never satisfying the hunger. Fame has calories, cholesterol and a control that blinds those in its spotlight. For Paris Hilton, rich wasn't enough. For Britney Spears, stardom wasn't bright enough. Poor Donald Trump must threaten lawsuits against those who would hint of his shortcomings. Fame is hot. In the end, it's a burn out.

Fortune is the torch - a flame raised to a future of equalities, educations, and encouragement. It offers opportunities and optimisms, scholarships and schools. Patron saint of American philanthropy, Andrew Carnegie, gave away 90% of his fortune during his lifetime. Carnegie and John Rockefeller were giants of the golden age of philanthropy. Today's giants of giveaway are Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. Oprah Winfrey opened a girls' academy in Africa. Cost? $40 million. Their fortunes are gems that will shine long after these benefactors are gone.

I am not famous. With no fame, I am "one of the masses," "part of the crowd." I exist without seeking externals for personal validation. I can go to Safeway in old sweats and rubber flip-flops and no one cares. I can appear in public without make-up and no one notices. I can eat a big box of pop-corn at the movie theater and no one speculates about my weight. I am as I choose.

On the other hand, I do have a fortune; I am fortunate. I have health, a solid marriage, two grown children who, I'm happy to report, have become "adults." They, in turn, have children of their own and these priceless treasures contribute greatly to my joyful prosperity. I have a modest IRA and a large protfolio of friends. My cup runneth over and so I must share! It's who I am.

Fame and fortune often dance together, but when the music ends, fortune keeps the rhythm alive. Fortune is gold. Fame is smoke and mirrors.

With hubby Gary, Charlene Bunas has lived in her home for over thirty years. Her 1999 red VW bug now brags over 100,000 miles.


Which is better fame or fortune?

  by Charles Markee

Let's just analyze this in terms of basic accounting criteria. I have a stupendous idea and I want to write a book. It will take me three years working half time, a total of 3,000 hours. Then, lucky me, I titillate an agent, s/he turns on a publisher and we agree to $10,000 up front and a royalty of 5% per book sold. The agent takes 15% of the front money and I get $8,500 plus $0.75/book. The book does very well and sells 5,000 copies and I receive a check for $3,750. Oh boy! I earned $4.08/hour. What??! That's a fortune? No way! And I didn't include expenses or tax! Better look at fame.

Let's consider a real case, Dow Mossman. After receiving an M.A. from the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1969, he wrote The Stones of Summer. The May, 1972 New York Times Book Review celebrated it as a work of genius.
Exhausted, Mossman recovered in an Iowa sanitarium, disappeared from the literary landscape and the book went out of print. Thirty years later, Mark Markowitz reopened the case in a film documentary (Stone Reader, 2002), but it was too late for Mossman. Anyone for a job as a store clerk?

However, the question deserves one serious comment. If you can't stand frustration and you don't love the process of writing, go to culinary school. Everyone needs to eat.

Charles Markee, Santa Rosa middle-grade novel writer and amateur film critic.

E-Mail Charles Markee for a free subscription to email DVD film reviews.


Christine Falcone



When asked the question, I'd have to say fortune is better. Fame would feel too much like prison. In fact, I've never wanted to be famous -- at least not in a Michael Jackson/Madonna sort of way. A little fame might be nice, I must admit. But I would hate not being able to go out in public, stop for gas, go for a walk in the woods without being chased by the paparazzi. There's just something so predatory about it. People wanting to know what I eat, how I sleep, the most intimate details of my private life. No, I have too many secrets to keep. Things like what the grass feels like as I lay on my back, stargazing at midnight. Or the lessons of cold, still river stones. I like to stand back, blend in, merge with whatever environment I may find myself in. I take pride in being a bit of a chameleon. I like to spy, eavesdrop, casually take note. I never want to be too obvious about the fact that I'm drinking up the world around me lest someone try to stop me. And if I were famous, I couldn't do that without an audience. The expectations of others alone would kill me. And as far as fortune goes, I do know that it doesn't come without its own kind of headaches. But I'd rather be a rich writer than a hunted one.


Christine Falcone is a writer living in Novato, California who knows neither fame nor fortune, but who is hell-bent on making her mark.

Fame & Fortune

  by Dan Coshnear

"Would you rather all the castles in Spain or if the street only knew your name?" That's how Van Morrison frames the question. His answer comes in one long symphonic syllable - EEEEEEEE! Is that helpful? Not to me. I reason this way: If you had all the castles in Spain, people on the street would know your name, at least in Spain.

Fortune is fortune and fun to imagine. You can wear it. You can hide it. You can worry over it or sleep soundly because of it. It will be whatever you and your financial advisor and your domineering half-sister choose it to be, but fame is trickier. One can buy fame, for example, but is that the kind of fame one wants? Imelda Marcos had her hours under the bright lights. Donald Trump won't fade away. And I was once, very briefly, moderately famous for a pie crust I'd made.

But aren't we once again talking about writers?

There are primarily two kinds of fame for writers: posthumous and pre-posthumous. Let's just talk about the latter, because really, who gives a damn how renowned, or wealthy, he is when he's dead.

Chances are, if you're alive and rich from writing, you're probably at least a little famous, unless you're a ghost writer or write text books. And if you are famous by your publications, you're probably financially comfortable, unless you're a poet.

For me the question becomes a little more manageable when I ask - 1) How rich? and, 2) What kind of famous?

Pretty rich, but not that, that rich. I'd like to be able to retire once in a while. I'd like to take vast train trips with my children, one at a time. Eventually they may want to go to college and I'd like to help, etc. There have been times I've wanted to sponsor this or that, though at the moment I can't think what. Anyway, that kind of money. Enough not to worry. Enough to be generous without wincing. And a little stash for surgeries and other rainy day type whims.

Hmm. This is the really hard part. It occurs to me now that there are writers I love who I could not pick out of a police line-up. I just finished a Nadine Gordimer story in the New Yorker. It was brilliant and it nearly brought me to tears, but I wouldn't know her if she came up and kissed me. Fame for a writer means what? People show up in droves at your readings. Once in a while someone does a school report about you and your body of work. You get your own page on Wikipedia. Fame means you have a public persona, a reputation that precedes you, a ready-made conversation with strangers. You can enter into a heated discussion without having to raise your voice. Because on paper you are wise or witty, people assume you will be so in person, at least for a while, and longer if you move around a lot.

Personally, I feel that a modicum of each, fame and fortune, is optimal. I'd leverage one against the other to get what I want. Now all that's needed is talent, hard work and luck. While you're up, please bring me a double-dose of luck.


Dan Coshnear, Guerneville, CA

WHICH IS BETTER, FAME OR FORTUNE?

  by Dmitri Rusov~Morningstar

Which is better, smoke or fire? I suppose it depends on where one is standing and which way the wind is blowing!

Fame and fortune are not necessarily intertwined, though we tend to see them as fitting hand in glove.

For example, in the ‘60's, I produced concerts of folk music and I was lucky enough to be around many of the not so rich and famous who eventually became the rich and famous. It was a fascinating study of human nature for me as I watched many of these talented people learn to handle or fall victim to the trappings of fame and/or fortune.

As so often happens to the few successful performers in the hypnotic adventure of ‘show business', the fame came long before the fortune. They had to juggle the perils of honesty in management staff, knowing who their close friends really were, and the fine line of distinction between personal and public persona. And even in one's own home, the issue of Trust would be huge.

Pardon the cliché, but it can be very lonely at the Top. It takes a particular kind of inner strength to be able to live at the Top with dignity and a genuine humility to be able to live at the top with integrity. For me, those qualities separate the ones who are merely famous from those who are made of the true greatness of human spirit.

Those lucky enough to amass fortunes have done so because of their longevity in their genre. Keeping up the Ritz is very tricky indeed. And longevity continues to be an endless course of reinventing one's self to remain in the public eye.

At that level, one must add to all of the above, the ability to count, know how to be CEO of a large corporation, and juggle the thousands of requests for private and public donations (of time as well as money) per month that come into the picture.

Having seen some of the joys and pains of fame and fortune first hand, I'll quietly vote for the fortune alone. I would love to be in the financial position to be able to help others in a big way while I count my own blessings and let another, more clever soul deal with the paparazzi!


Dmitri Rusov~Morningstar lives in Sonoma County, CA., who loves to write about his Maine Coone Cats and some of his personal adventures. His day job is mindful architectural design on residential projects that change his clients’ lives for the better.

Literary Fame vs. Literary Fortune

  by Gregory Gerard

It's easy to jump at fame; flashy glitter showering the globe - Hollywood; Paris; Sydney.

And fortune promises that life will be fine, that toil will cease.

As a writer, I've achieved neither.
And still I keep chasing both.

But
If you hold me against the wall;
If you tickle me until tears stream down my cheeks;
If you threaten to take a hammer to my hard drive unless I choose;

I choose fame.

Fortune feels fleeting. Cash can't exist in my wallet for more than ten hours - it itches in the back pocket of my jeans, driving me to the market, or to the coffeehouse, or to my favorite used bookstore. Satisfying its insatiable desire to circulate.

Yet the dog-eared manuscripts lining the shelves at the Rochester Public Library testify the truth of fame. J.R.R. Tolkien. Virginia Woolf. Charles Dickens. They and others lurk among the stacks, ready and willing to engage us. Just waiting for us to crack a cover, settle into an easy chair, sip a mug of cocoa, and join them.

Literary fame is immortality.


Gregory Gerard keeps chasing immortality in Rochester, New York. Sprinkle some glitter his way: E-Mail Gregory





I'd Choose Fortune Over Fame

  by J. Randal Matheny

Both are fleeting, but a fickle dame is fame; No good accrues for lips to speak my name.
With cash I choose both how and where to spend, And balanced books tell where the dollars end.

J. Randal Matheny traverses the Equator frequently without finding either fame or fortune. He has found a contented life and writes about it at YourDaytoShine.com.



J. Randal Matheny traverses the Equator frequently without finding either fame or fortune. He has found a contented life and writes about it atYourDaytoShine.com



James Scheller



Neither is "worth a bucket of warm spit" without your health. Otherwise give me fortune every time and I'll buy all the fame I want.


James Scheller is a northern California writer and health professional.

Fame or Fortune?

  by Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Oh brazen fame, with her flashy taste and perfect skin under the spotlight: who doesn't want her, just a little? With fame in your pocket doors open, people kowtow, and the world's eyes fall on you with instant adoration. Fame's a handy gal to have around, to get you in where others only hope to go.

Problem is, in order to court her, there's a bargain you have to make. Fame moves in, privacy moves out. The world owns your story, keeps its fingers on the pulse of your troubles, invites itself in to your personal dramas and gets all the dirty details—even if they're wrong.

Give me fortune, any day. Sure, fortune's as fickle as fame—it can waltz out of your life with one bad decision, can leave you chasing its after taste. But when it abounds, other doors also open, people may not kowtow as much as stretch out a hand—but we're no fools, we live in a world where money can buy a lot, if not happiness.

And of course, who says fortune only means riches? Fortune comes in great gusts of creativity—giving you ideas on the half-shell, strands of shimmering experience, and hopefully, the company of people who love you. After all, we say we're "fortunate" when something good happens; when our medical tests turn out benign, when we get the job, launch a creative project, or just turn around and find that we are, after all these years, still loved.



Jordan E. Rosenfeld writes from the south bay area where she misses her cat, takes comfort in her beloved, and accepts that fortune’s not a bad tradeoff for keeping her privacy. Visit Jordan's Blog or
Jordan's Website





Which is better, fame or fortune?

  by Richard Comfort

Fame or fortune? A question that becomes less and less important as I grow older. Not that I couldn't find a use for either of those attributes. They both afford advantages, don't they?

All in all fame looks more and more like the one I want the least. Respect is a good substitute. Fame invites false adulation. Would I be overcome by that? Probably. But I would hope I could learn to recognize it.

A tough thing about fame is that it brings attention. The older I get, the more I look for a-n-o-n-y-m-it-y. Leave me alone…… please. I'll call when I want attention. If ya got fame, ya got accountability. Everything you say is held up to scrutiny. My lifetime observation is that a lot of what I say often won't hold up.

I suppose if a spotlight was constantly on me some good might come of it. Who knows? Maybe I could become a role model. Whoa, that scares me.

Now fortune, that's a condition that bears examination. The truth is, at sixty-seven, I'm more likely to experience fame by an act of fate. Fortune is not likely to fall on me, especially because it generally requires a lot of effort, something I'm short on and getting shorter.

Fortune though, would be preferable to fame. With money I could become an anonymous do-gooder, a role that would astonish most of my friends. The perfect example of a good mixture of fame and fortune is Opra. She pulls it off pretty well.


Richard Comfort is married, lives in Sonoma, is 67 years old, has one daughter, 35. This is his first Searchlights posting.

An Appetite for Fame and Fortune

  by Susan Bono

As editor of this column, I have the opportunity to read the month's entries as they accumulate. Sometimes the answers affect my response, and when they do, I feel a little guilty, like I did in first grade when I'd sneak a peek at Alan Thompson's paper during the spelling test. I tried not to think of it as cheating; I was just finalizing my decision.

This month, I couldn't decide which horse to ride over the finish line, so I did a lot of peeking. I noticed most writers chose fortune as the fate they'd prefer, and that makes plenty of sense. The cheater in me can see it, the same way I could glance across the aisle at Alan's test and suddenly remember how to spell "friend."

And yet, fortune seems to be the prize I have avoided all my life. I am the daughter of school teachers who nurtured in me a reverse snobbism. Doing without was a good way to remain pure and humble. Pity those who don't know the joys of making silk purses from sows' ears.

That attitude served me well enough when I, too, became a schoolteacher. I was proud to be in a profession which is so obviously not about money. And money wasn't an issue when I left teaching to mother my kids full time. It was fortune enough that my engineer husband's salary was more than my dad made at the peak of his career.

It wasn't until I began Tiny Lights that I've seen how my aversion to fortune has held me in place. It's hard to get over the belief that true artists are meant to starve. The greats like Melville, Dickens, and Kafka wrote to keep wolves from their doors. Others, like Dan Brown and Danielle Steele can afford to hire wolves as dinner entertainment. I don't fall into either category, but I was taught never to feed a wolf. Starving myself has been my way of making sure those beasts never get fat off me.

So, in spite of my cheating, I still don't have the right answer. The question of fame versus fortune seems to be boiling down to the issue of hunger, yours, mine, even those slavering wolves. We tend to associate comfort with celebrity and wealth, but comfort may be the poison that kills the urge to create. Neither fame nor fortune can be had unless the writer has the appetite for it: "It" being a willingness to spill her guts onto a page, hold it up and shout, "What'll you give me for this?"


Susan Bono is working up an appetite in Petaluma, CA.

Which is better, fame or fortune?

  by Todd Eastman

Which is better, fame or fortune?

Define better.

I'll rephrase the question. Which would you rather be, famous or wealthy?

Can't I be both?

Of course, but the question is which would you rather be, given a choice between the two?

Oh. How famous and how wealthy?

Whatever you wish.

Well, there's a difference between being famous locally and being famous world-wide. There is also a difference between being doctor or lawyer wealthy, and being Bill Gates wealthy.

This is true.

Can you be famous but not wealthy?

Certainly. The guys in New York City that caught a falling baby are famous, but not wealthy.

Can you be wealthy but not famous?

Can you name the guys who created and sold YouTube?

Point taken.

Your choice then?

Well, if I had to choose, I think I would choose fortune over fame.

Why is that?

Famous people lose their privacy, but wealthy people can buy it.

That makes sense. Thank you.

So, do I get to be wealthy?

That is entirely up to you.

But you're a genie! Don't I get my wish fulfilled?

It was a rhetorical question.

With a poof of smoke, the genie disappeared. Stupid genie.

Todd Eastman is a new freelance writer who finally made the decision to leave the corporate world and follow his dreams.
Todd Eastman's Website


Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

Christine Falcone, David Samuel Johnson, Betty Rodgers

Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer whose work appears in newspapers, anthologies and the Internet. She has published Tiny Lights, a journal of personal essay, since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. From 2000—2005 she helped coordinate the Writer's Sampler series for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Her short essays and columns have appeared in various anthologies, magazines, newspapers and on the radio. Her most recent credits include Passager Magazine, Red Hills Review, the St. Petersburg Times, the Petaluma Argus Courier, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and KRCB radio's Word by Word.

Christine Falcone has been writing most of her life. Her work has appeared in print and online, and it has aired on public television and public radio. One of her writing goals for 2008 is to find an agent for her recently completed first novel, "This Is What I Know," which was named as a finalist in the William Faulkner Wisdom Creative Writing Competition out of New Orleans. She is currently in a new writing space, painted purple for inspiration, busily at work on another novel -- this one having to do with the nature of violence.

David Samuel Johnson was reared on a mountain in Arkansas. He lived the bohemian lifestyle in the Ozarks as a hillbilly vagabond, traversing the mountainside shirtless and most of the time shoeless, exploring the sensuality of the aromatic, organic-rich soil of the forest floor or the harsh poetry of greenbriers twined around a devil’s-walking-stick. As a kid he wanted to be a writer and own a snake farm when he grew up. His Mama knew she couldn't dissuade him from either goal. When he brought a poisonous copperhead snake home in his pocket, she bought him a book about snakes so he’d know which ones he could bring home and which ones to leave behind. When he wrote his first poem to a girl in kindergarten, she showed him how to use a dictionary so he could spell the word "beautiful." David's goal of a snake farm and the love of his mountain have manifested into a PhD in ecology. David’s dream of writing has evolved from his first poem in kindergarten to essays in newspapers to interview articles in magazines and columns in this journal. He is living a beautiful dream, some of which you can glimpse below.

David the Writer

David the Scientist

Betty Rodgers and her husband, Ken, live and watch birds in Boise, Idaho. A transplant among transplants, she has chosen to learn the local landscape through the lens of her Pentax K10D. Her writing career began at an early age when she wrote plays and coerced her boy cousins to perform them. She has enjoyed a life-long affair with journalism, writing for the Sacramento Bee, the Cloudcroft Mountain Monthly, the Sebastopol Times and News, and the Boise Weekly. Born in Steinbeck Country, she has also lived in Maine and New Mexico. Betty publishes a bi-monthly online newsletter for Idaho writers, a labor of love inspired by Terry Ehret. In 2006, she published A Mano, a book of poetry by the late Vince Pedroia.

Thanks to all who participated this month. It's good to know you're out there! We're looking forward to hearing from you and those you inspired sometime soon! Check this column each month to see what's new. Return to Searchlights & Signal Flares menu for future topics and guidelines.

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